25 May 2011

Final Day for Fake Exams

EACH MAY MY department holds the Bac Blanc oral exams -- a 'practice' test to help the students prepare for the oral exams they will have in late June. We hold them each Wednesday afternoon for 3 weeks and it is a tiring process that includes giving exams and taking careful notes on responses for 3 straight hours.

The process is also stressful for the students. When they arrive they pick ONE question from a hat that holds 50 questions covering all parts of the academic program. They then get 20 minutes to prepare their answer to the question -- during which time they may not have any notes or texts. When the 20 minutes are up, the students come into a room with a teacher and present their question for 5 minutes, followed by a 15 minute period of 'give-and-take' on any other subjects covered during the year.

So far no one has cried in the exam. I mention this because it has happened in two of the last three years -- not in the blanc, but during the real orals that I have conducted in Paris. I remember one girl in particular who teared-up and began to cry right after drawing her question, which was, 'Analyze and discuss the presidencey of Jimmy Carter'. (There's a joke there, I'm sure, but I'll let you come up with it). When I told her to try to remain calm and do her best to prepare, her response was, 'I don't know who this is.'

Ouch. The exam did not go all that well, as you might imagine.

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